“No one, it doesn’t matter how good a photographer they are, nobody has my eye”
Barbara McGrady, 2013

This year NAIDOC celebrates and recognises the contribution that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women make, and continue to make, to education, empowerment,community, family and country.

In partnership with NITV, the Australian Centre for Photography presents the work of photojournalist Barbara McGrady as a free educational resource for schools across the country. Through her pioneering work, students and teachers are invited to experience the important social, political and historical events witnessed by McGrady.

Spanning 30-years, McGrady’s works are important visual and historical records that inform our understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in urban areas, and offer a powerful alternative visual representation of what it means to be Kooris today.

A Gomeroi/Gamilaraay Murri yinah (woman), McGrady’s unique gaze offers a rare and valuable perspective on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continued struggle for recognition, their significant contribution to Australian life and their love of sport, culture and community.

McGrady’s photography provides a vital counterpoint to mainstream representations of Indigenous Australians, wielding the photographic image as an influential tool for empowerment and social change.

This educational resource has evolved from the Australian Centre for Photography’s 2017 exhibition Barbara McGrady: Always will be, guest-curated by Sandy Edwards as part of ACP’s Carte Blanche Program.

Women in Photojournalism

“Well I suppose I’m a little bit of an oddity, being a lot older than them, being a woman, and being black.”
Barbara McGrady, 2013

The first Aboriginal female photojournalist of her calibre, McGrady’s photographs present a previously unseen perspective on key political and social events. Informed by her personal experience, her photographs are inexplicably tethered to her love of community and sport. 

Born in Mungindi, Barbara McGrady is a Gomeroi/Gamilaraay, Murri yinah(woman) from the north west of New South Wales and south Queensland. McGrady’s interest in photography began in her early teens when she was gifted a camera from her mother and was first exposed to photographs depicting black sportsmen and women from the pages of Time and Life Magazine. Since then she has played an active role in the documentation of her community – their achievements and the injustices they have experienced.  

McGrady’s specific interests lie in contemporary urban issues that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including human rights, politics and sports. McGrady’s work has been published in a variety of publications and websites, including NAIDOC, NITV, National Indigenous Times, Reconciliation Australia, Aboriginal Legal Service and Gadigal Information. As a freelance photojournalist, she is an active member of the Glebe community, donating significant time to pro bono assignments, creating an important visual record of previously overlooked communities.

Female Representation

3.4 Barbara McGrady, Buuja Buuja Butterfly dancers, Yabun, Sydney, 2016

Barbara McGrady, Buuja Buuja Butterfly dancers, Yabun, Sydney, 2016

Barbara McGrady, Buuja Buuja Butterfly dancers, Yabun, Sydney, 2016

McGrady’s love of community, sport and family presents audiences with multifaceted representations of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. Historically many female subjects have been under-represented or stereotyped by the media, McGrady’s photos present her female subjects as active and diverse contributors to family, community and country. Featured in their roles as activists, community leaders, athletes, performers and family members, these powerful and positive representations provide a necessary, and alternative viewpoint to mainstream media, and act as a catalyst for bridging the gap between Aboriginal people and Australians.

Black History

Barbara McGrady, Gamilaraay man Paul Spearim, Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy, The Block, 2014

Barbara McGrady, Gamilaraay man Paul Spearim, Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy, The Block, 2014

"Barbara’s photographs are, through the strength of her unique sight, an antidote to a world that has failed to see or hear or feel her people, the First Nations people of this country.… I see an innate respect and connection between her subjects and herself. I see images of great humanity and inclusiveness.”
Lisa Hogben, 2017

McGrady’s practice focuses primarily on documenting her community. Her images tell the story of contemporary Aboriginal life through her knowledge of sociological practice. Describing herself as a protagonist, McGrady is a ‘documentarian’ of historical events that are important to Aboriginal culture and people. In many ways, McGrady’s work lends volume to voices often underrepresented by Australian media. Her work invites us to immerse ourselves in her world, and allows us to view the world through her eyes.

McGrady regularly attends and photographs protests in and around Redfern, and these photographs take many of us beyond what we know, into a world not shown to us by mainstream media. McGrady has documented protest marches, actions, meetings and fundraisers. These include:
• Occupy Sydney
• Deaths in Custody
• the death of T J Hickey
• the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy
• the government adoption of a Basics Card
• Grandmothers Against Removals
• the Northern Territory Intervention
• Closure of Communities in Western Australia

These protest actions and consciousness raising methods are supported by many individuals. Key front speakers and supporters whom McGrady has photographed include: John Pilger; Rosalie Kurnoff-Monk; Dr Gary Foley; and Jenny and Lorna Munro .

Sport

Barbara McGrady, NRL Indigenous All Stars, Newcastle, 2017

Barbara McGrady, NRL Indigenous All Stars, Newcastle, 2017

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples make a significant contribution to Australian sport, as both players and spectators. McGrady was raised on Rugby League and boxing. A keen athlete in her early years, McGrady played Rugby League with her father and brothers, a sport she still follows enthusiastically today.

Every year McGrady attends and photographs the Koori Knockout. The Knockout started in 1971 with hand-drawn A4 cardboard signs that were taped on poles around Redfern. It was a stage for the many talented Aboriginal footballers who were overlooked by talent scouts. In 2018 the annual NSW Rugby League Knockout carnival has grown to become one of the largest gatherings of Aboriginal people and communities from all over NSW. It attracts a crowd of over 60,000 people annually as spectators of men’s, women’s and junior games.

Boxing has also been a part of Aboriginal life since it was legalised in Australia in the early 1900’s. At that time, it was one of the few ways that Aboriginal men could earn a living, and a way of gaining social status in the broader community. ‘Boxing tents’ travelled around Australia with troupes of boxers, inviting local men to go ‘a round or two for a pound or two.’ One of the most famous Australian boxers was World Bantamweight Title holder, Lionel Rose. An Aboriginal boxer, who won the Title in February, 1968 in Tokyo. Anthony Mundine’s father, Tony Mundine, was a well known boxer and participant in these matches during the 1970’s. McGrady is a keen follower of boxing and many of her portraits of Anthony were taken in Tony’s gym, located in The Block in Redfern.

McGrady’s love of sport and her confidence are vital factors in successfully recognising the‘decisive moment’ and fleeting emotions.

Community

Barbara McGrady, Sister Girls stylin up, Mardi Gras, 2013

Barbara McGrady, Sister Girls stylin up, Mardi Gras, 2013

McGrady photographs many community leaders and role models in and around the Sydney area. She has documented performances and high profile events with some of Australia’s leading performers and celebrities including Jessica Mauboy, Deborah Mailman, Alec Doomadgee, Isaiah Firebrace and Troy Cassar-Daley.

Her images are uncompromisingly real and are informed by her active participation in political and social events in her community. They are a celebration of the diverse contribution made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander peoples, incorporating performance, activism and community events. McGrady has captured key community leaders and supporters including Dr Gary Foley, Sista Girls and Steve Williams .

This website was created in collaboration between NITV, the Australian Centre for Photography and Barbara McGrady.